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Wanted: A New Tribe to Build the Nigeria of our Dreams

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 Address by Okechukwu Enelamah, Honourable Minister of Industry, Trade and Investment at The Platform, Monday, 2 October 2017

First, let me thank the Covenant Christian Centre and its visionary, Pastor Poju Oyemade for the forward-looking vision that has birthed and nurtured this programme for about a decade now. The distinguished cast of speakers, the multiple viral moments, shared enthusiastically by the digitally connected generation, and its insistence on conversations that matter have made this an important cultural and social phenomenon for Nigeria. I thank you for inviting me on this stage to share a message on building the Nigeria of our dreams.

The theme of today’s event, ‘Putting Together the Jigsaw Pieces that Form Nigeria’, reminds me of a story I read about a Scientist and his 9-year old son. The Scientist was working on a difficult assignment and was approached by his 9-year-old son determined to help him in his work. The Scientist, who would rather not be interrupted, tried to ask his son to go somewhere else for a while, but when he saw that the son would not, he started looking for an activity to keep the child busy. He tore a page of the world map from a booklet, cut it into small pieces, and gave it to the child with a roll of duct tape. “Do you like puzzles?” he said, “Take this dismantled world map and see if you can tape it together again.”

The Scientist was confident the child would take many days to assemble the map, but a few hours later, he heard his son calling him “Dad, I’m done, I put everything back together.” At first, he did not believe it: “It isn’t possible at the age of nine to reconstruct a map of the world his son had never seen before!” He thought. He put down his notes, went to his son and was sure he was going to see a mess. To his surprise, the map was perfect and all the pieces were in place!

“How did you DO that??” The scientist asked his son. “How did you put the world back together?”. “Well, dad,” the boy answered, “I don’t know the world, but when you tore the page from the magazine, I saw on the other side a picture of a man. When you gave me the world to fix, I tried but couldn’t. Then I flipped all the pieces and started to fix the man. And when I fixed the man, I turned it over and saw the world had been fixed as well…”

This story may be apocryphal, but it teaches vital lessons that could hold the keys to solving the Nigeria jigsaw puzzle. Even though we may face daunting challenges in building the Nigeria of our dreams, there are three lessons from this story that are the master keys to solving our jigsaw puzzle.

The boy said to his father: “When I fixed the man, I turned it over and saw the world had been fixed as well…” Here is the lesson for us:

  • As we fix the man, Nigeria is fixed as well.
  • As we invest in and transform people’s thinking and values, Nigerians will transform Nigeria into a truly great nation!

Second, the boy said, “When you gave me the world to fix, I tried but couldn’t. Then I flipped all the pieces and started to fix the person; I solved the puzzle backward”. What the little boy did was start with the end in mind and work back to the present situation then found a successful way forward. This is a proven and sound approach to problem solving called ‘inversion’ and is credited to a great German 19th century Mathematician, Carl Jacobi. Jacobi, with regard to problem solving, is quoted as saying “invert, always invert”. Here is what Charlie Munger, who together with Warren Buffett, built the world’s most successful investment business, has to say on this approach to problem-solving: “Think forwards and backwards – invert always invert”. Many hard problems are best solved when they are addressed backward. The way complex adaptive systems work and the way mental constructs work is that problems frequently get easier, I’d even say are easier to solve, if you can turn them around in reverse. In other words, if you want to help Nigeria, the basic question you should ask is not “How can I help Nigeria?” but “What is doing us the worst damage; what will be the outcome and how can I change it to get a good result?”. Figure out what it is you don’t want, avoid it and go for the best alternative. This approach to solving problems is the reverse of the approach that many people use in life. ‘Inversion’ and ‘thinking backwards’ are two descriptions of this method. By way of illustration, one great way to be happy is to avoid things that make you miserable.

  • The third takeaway from the story is this: The dad was confident the child would take many days (a very long time) to assemble the map, but a few hours later, he heard the voice of his son call him “Dad, I am done, I put everything back together”. We too can put the jigsaw pieces that form Nigeria back together in a relatively short time if:
    • We focus on our people; and
    • Invert to solve the problem by avoiding the things that make our people miserable; and replacing them with things that make them successful.

As a nation, we also need to focus on our people and what makes them successful. Clearly, our first objective must to visualize the Nigeria we want to create for the future and then work back to the present. We then can work forward in an effective way. Much has been done and is being done on the vision already; but today’s purpose is how to make our vision happen in a practical way.

Therefore, against the backdrop of this story and its lessons, please permit me to propose three pillars or PRINCIPLES on which we can build the Nigeria of our dreams. Those of you who know me and have followed my story would agree that all three principles are things I believe in deeply and practice. Therefore, these are not theoretical or nice sounding suggestions that lack practical relevance but deep truths and principles on which we can build a truly prosperous and great Nigeria.

CREATE THE ENABLING ENVIRONMENT by removing the constraints to mastering the Nigeria opportunity and open up the paths to lasting success

INSPIRE A COMMITTED GENERATION TO BUILD THE NIGERIA OF OUR DREAMS – ‘it takes only one committed generation to build a great nation”

BE CONTRARIAN AND BE RIGHT – ‘What is right is not always popular and what is popular is not always right” – Albert Einstein


It has been observed that when you take Nigerians out of Nigeria to other well-functioning countries and systems, they thrive. This tells us that there is nothing fundamentally wrong with Nigerians. It is our systems and environment that are the problem.

Using the principles of “inversion”, we must systematically remove (and dismantle) all the obstacles and constraints that make us miserable or bring out the worst in us.

We must create the enabling environment for our people and businesses to succeed. Our country, Nigeria, is considered one of the most difficult and costliest places to do business in the world. What if we committed to flipping this on its head and choose to become one of the easiest and safest places to live in and operate in the world?

  • This is what is called “the AUDACITY OF FAITH”
  • Faith calls things that are not as though they were.

The vision of our government is to make Nigeria one of the easiest, safest and most attractive countries in the world to live and operate in.

Using the principle of “inversion” or “thinking backward”, we want to systematically remove all the bottlenecks and obstacles that make life difficult for our people and businesses.

I believe this is the essence of public service and is the objective of President Buhari’s government. We must bring the “service” element back into government and public service.

The Muhammadu Buhari Government is systematically laying the foundation for a New Nigeria by creating the ENABLING ENVIRONMENT for our people and businesses to thrive and reach their full potential.

In 2016, President Buhari established the Presidential Enabling Business Environment Council (PEBEC) with HEVP Professor Yemi Osinbajo as Chairman. PEBEC, along with its secretariat EBES, has made considerable progress since it was established in mid-2016. Early in 2017, as Acting President, Professor Yemi Osinbajo signed Executive Order 01 on Transparency, Default Approvals and Principle of One Government. Executive Order 01 is focused on Ease of Doing Business and Enabling Environment.

Just last week, PEBEC had an expanded meeting that included leadership of the National Assembly and the Judiciary (for instance, the Chief Justice of Nigeria personally attended). The meeting also included representatives of States. Building on the momentum and success of the ongoing reforms at the Federal level, the National Economic Council at one of its recent meetings agreed to roll out the various Ease of Doing Business and Enabling Environment initiatives at the state level [Please refer audience to the PEBEC/EBES website –].

There is no doubt whatsoever in my mind that creating the right enabling environment is the path to true and sustainable prosperity and greatness. Given the critical importance of Enabling Environment, it must not be left alone to governments but we should forge a true partnership between governments, the private sector and civil society groups.

Enabling Environment includes both soft infrastructure (rule of law, progressive, business and citizen friendly regulations, functioning and progressive pubic service etc.) and hard infrastructure (power, roads, rail, water etc.). In all these areas we can form effective partnerships and collaboration between various stakeholders in the country notably Government, business and civil society. All great nations have been built through successful partnerships between government, business and civil society. This leads to the next pillar and principle required to build the Nigeria of our dreams.


It has been said that it takes only one committed generation to build a great nation. Why not us? Why not now? We need a committed generation to build the Nigeria of our dreams. This quote is not original. Manuel Soto who served as the Managing Partner, Arthur Andersen (for the EMEA region) in the early 1970’s and witnessed the Spanish Miracle is best remembered for teaching that “it only takes one committed generation to build a great nation”.

Dick Kramer, my mentor and former boss (Chairman of the ACA Group and former Managing Partner, Arthur Andersen Nigeria and Andersen Consulting Nigeria, precursors to KPMG Professional Services and Accenture Nigeria) who worked closely with Manuel Soto in the Arthur Andersen Practice has often pointed out to those of us he mentored over the years that One Committed Generation is what it would take to build the Nigeria of our dreams.

The Spanish Miracle was the name given to a broad-based economic boom in Spain from 1959 to 1974. The Spanish economic miracle was initiated by reforms promoted by the so-called technocrats, who with Franco’s approval (the then Head of the Spanish State), put in place policies developed by and for Spain. The technocrats, many of whom were members of Opus Dei, were a new breed of politicians who replaced the old (falangist) guard. There are many other good examples we can learn from as well: such as Singapore under Lee Kuan Yew and China under Deng Xiaoping.

As the Bible says, there is nothing new under the sun. Other nations have successfully done what we are seeking to do in Nigeria and we must learn from what has worked.

HEVP in a Keynote address at the AiMP Annual Nation Building Workshop in Lagos last year (2016) said, and I quote, “To build the new Nigeria, we need a new tribe. A tribe of men and women of all faiths, tribes, and ethnicities, committed to a country run on high values of INTEGRITY, HARD WORK, JUSTICE and LOVE OF COUNTRY. A tribe of men and women who are prepared to make the sacrifices and exercise the self-constraints that are crucial to building a healthy society; who are prepared to stick together.”

Ladies and Gentlemen, our dear nation has posted a new job vacancy. Wanted: A New Tribe of people who are committed to building the Nigeria of our dreams. Each of us in this room has a part to play in building the New Nigeria.

I am sure many of us have heard the famous quote credited to Margaret Mead, “Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world; indeed, it’s the only thing that ever has”.

Ladies and Gentlemen, this is why we are gathered here today. If indeed, it takes only one committed generation to build a great nation (to build the Nigeria of our dreams), and if it takes only a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens to change the world, then we must understand that is why we are gathered here today: To stand up to be counted as part of that group chosen to build the Nigeria of our dreams.

It has been said that life is lived forwards but understood when we look back. When history looks back at us, and on this period, may it be said that we constituted the New Tribe that built the Nigeria of our dreams. Amen.

PILLAR III – BE CONTRARIAN AND BE RIGHT – “What is right is not always popular and what is popular is not always right” – Albert Einstein.

One of the most troubling developments in our national dialogue is an increasing tendency towards populism and saying what people want to hear rather than telling ourselves the truth.

Given that we are in a church auditorium, please permit me to use the contrarian principles of the Christian gospel to illustrate this rather important point. When Christ came to this world, the Jews of His day were ruled and oppressed by the Romans and they wanted an all-conquering Messiah who would come and help free them from the bondage and oppression of the Romans. However, Christ preached a message of love and sacrifice. Jesus taught that the way to greatness was servant leadership.

Christ called the message of love the great commandment. Paul called it the more excellent way. There must be something to it. It must be the master key. At the heart of the Christian gospel is to eschew selfishness/self-centeredness and choose other-centeredness.

As a nation, we must adopt a culture and attitude of service. If we obey this simple principle of life of ‘other-centeredness’; putting others before ourselves and doing unto others as we would like them to do unto us – we would inevitably and undoubtedly succeed, both as individuals and as a nation.

Speaking for myself, and from the perspective of leadership, I have no doubt that the greatest role of the government, as instructed by Jesus in Matt. 23:11, is the role of the servant. We are here to serve you, the Nigerian people.

Jesus also taught us that true wisdom lay in doing what is right rather than merely paying lip service without corresponding action or making the necessary SACRIFICE.

The Apostle Paul used an analogy from sports to illustrate the important principle of self-sacrifice and doing rather than merely talking. Paul pointed that those who succeed in sports, discipline their bodies and go through gruelling practice in order to emerge victorious.

This is the Olympic mindset, which I define as being world-class and globally competitive, accepting personal responsibility for reaching your highest potential, defying defeat and succeeding without making excuse.

We need to operate with an Olympic mindset in all our dealings, knowing that we are in competition with the rest of the world. There is global competition for talent, capital and investment – the world does not owe us anything. One of the most troubling terms we use when people operate in mediocrity is “this is Nigeria”. [Please examples to support this]. Water does not run uphill in Nigeria. If we operate in mediocrity, we will only have mediocrity to show for our efforts. We need to stop using the term “this is Nigeria” for mediocrity or inferior behaviour. A country like Singapore emerged and became one of the most prosperous countries in the world under the visionary leadership of Lee Kuan Yew.

When nations obey the principles that lead to abundance, they prosper. Conversely, when nations do the opposite, even if they call on God’s name, they suffer lack and poverty.\

This reminds me of the Parable of Two Sons told by Jesus in Matthew 21:28-31: “But what do you think about this? A man with two sons told the older boy, ‘Son, go out and work in the vineyard today’. 29 The son answered, ‘No I won’t go’ but later changed his mind and went anyway. 30 Then the father told the other son, ‘You go’ and he said ‘Yes, Sir, I will’. But he didn’t go. 31 Which of them obeyed his father? They replied, ‘The first’”.

In some respects, Singapore could be likened to the first son in following and obeying the principles that lead to prosperity (even though broadly speaking, they are not a religious nation). In our country, broadly speaking, we are mostly religious but we have not followed the principles that lead to genuine prosperity (or to put it bluntly), we have made fundamental errors following the wrong values, and as a result, there is so much lack, suffering and poverty in the land.

We must change this and go back to the principles that underpin prosperity, which are the same principles HEVP pointed out in his speech on “A New Tribe”: INTEGRITY, HARDWORK that produces EXCELLENCE, JUSTICE and LOVE OF COUNTRY.

Ladies and Gentlemen – principles are universal and are always at work, whether we acknowledge them or not. In his influential book, the 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, Stephen R. Covey said, “Principles are rules or laws that are permanent, unchanging and universal in nature.” We must build the Nigeria of our dreams on the set of principles that underpin genuine and lasting PROSPERITY such as integrity, hard work (and excellence), justice and love of country. 


Let me conclude by summarizing today’s key lessons: First of all, we must start with the end in mind. We need a vision for Nigeria, which builds a great nation, brings success and produces a good life for all our people.

Then next, there are three key steps for implementation – for getting things done and producing good end results:

  • First, create the environment for all to succeed – government at all levels, private sector and civil society must accept responsibility and partner to create this enabling environment.
  • Second, foster a committed generation, armed and dedicated to build the Nigeria of our dreams.
  • Third, follow the contrarian principle of always doing the right thing first and not being unduly influenced by popularity. Dare to be contrarian and wise enough to be right on what we do. 


Let me close by speaking briefly on a subject that is very dear to my heart. I must make the most of the opportunity I have been given to serve our country. I know that, ultimately, promotion comes from God. I must not squander the grace of God. And I would add, we must not squander or waste the grace of God.

We must master (and make the most) of the opportunity God has given us to serve our nation! David said, “Is it a light thing to be a king’s son-in-law? Is it a small thing to marry the king’s daughter?”

We must make the most of the opportunity we have been given by God to serve our nation. Jesus, in the Bible, admonishes us to “work while it is day for the night is coming when no one can work”. It has been said, “The opportunity of a lifetime must be seized within the lifetime of the opportunity”.

We have the responsibility to make the most of the opportunities we have been given to serve our nation and build the Nigeria of our dreams. Paul said, “But by the grace of God I am what I am, and His grace toward me was not in vain; but I labored more abundantly than they all, yet not I, but the grace of God which was with me.

I want to serve in a way that when it is all over, I can honestly say to myself and others that I gave it my all! I worked hard. I poured my life, the grace bestowed upon me by God into the assignment I have been given. In other words, I did not squander the grace of God. I want to serve with the motto: “No Reserves. No Retreats. No Regrets”. Like Paul, when it is all over, I want to be able to say: “I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith”. I invite all of us here today to adopt this same mindset, as we run this race together to build the Nigeria of our dreams. At the end of our race, may our Father in Heaven say to us, “Well done good and faithful servants; you have been faithful in these things”.

Thank you and God bless you.

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